What a relief to be outside after being isolated by the coronavirus. But beware! Warmer weather means ticks are in the woods around you. Or even in your own backyard. A report from the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that a tick bite can have various and fatal consequences.
One case involved a 37-year-old man complaining of flu-like symptoms, fever, sore throat and joint pain. He had been in a tick-infested area several weeks ago but did not remember a tick bite. Her doctor diagnosed a viral infection and the patient improved.
Weeks later, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain sent him to the emergency room. There was no evidence of the typical tick eruption. But an ECG showed a complete heart block. The diagnosis? Lyme carditis. Treatment for the disease has started. However, the human condition deteriorated and he died.
Another case involved a 4-year-old boy who had fever, vomiting, general weakness, unsteady gait and disorientation. Fortunately, the doctors made a quick diagnosis, antibiotics were given, and the boy recovered.
A third patient, a 57-year-old woman, suffered from severe neurological symptoms, showing that several organs in the body can be affected. This is why Lyme disease has been called “the great imitator.” And why the diagnosis is often delayed.
Families with country houses are well aware of the pleasures of outdoor living. But they know the dangers of the tick season which runs from April to October. So how do you protect yourself?
First, know your enemy. The blacklegged tick is an insect related to spiders and mites. It has a two-year life cycle and needs a host to feed.
Then, ticks are very abundant. Studies show that there may be 2,000 infected ticks in an acre of woodland.
If you are bitten by a tick, you may find it lodged in your skin and requiring immediate removal. But ticks can bite, eat, and move around without you knowing it. So you should be aware of the signs that you have been bitten. A tick bite may not produce anything more than a small bump, but it can also cause a rash that appears even a month after a bite. The classic tick bite rash looks like a bull’s eye because it is red, circular, with a clear center and a red ring around it. But don’t be fooled by not seeing it. The United States Centers for Disease Control reports that only three in 10 people suffer from this specific rash. The bites can be painless or painful, itchy and hot. It can be associated with low fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue and often joint pain.
The best Rx is prevention, prevention, prevention. It is worth all the efforts, considering the risk of cardiovascular and neurological complications. This means wearing clothes that protect the arms and legs. And the use of insect repellent.
Follow a strict tick-finding routine on all parts of the body after being in the territory of ticks. This involves removing clothing completely and providing a pair of tweezers if a tick is found.
How long should it be removed? Some studies indicate that it takes 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease. But common sense says it is prudent to remove it as soon as possible to reduce the risk of transmission. And don’t forget to check the animals for ticks or give them anti-tick drugs.
If left untreated, the disease strikes again in about three to five months. About one in 10 patients develop an irregular heart rate or heart block. The majority recover after a short time.
Neurological complications develop in around 10% of cases. For example, the peripheral nerves may be involved, or they may suffer from Bell’s palsy, meningitis or encephalitis.
A final cycle of Lyme disease begins five months to five years after the first infection. Patients tend to complain of pain in large joints such as the knee.
So take this disease seriously. Never forget prevention.
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